Are teachers afraid to change the way they do things?

This week’s class for EC&I 831, Social Media and Open Education, offered through the University of Regina and facilitated by Dr. Alec Couros, was fortunate enough to have Sylvia Martinez as the guest speaker. Martinez, the author of an education book entitled: Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom, challenged us with the idea that students need to be exposed to technology within all subject areas and that our students need to experiment to learn.

Martinez outlined that students learn through discovery and that technology and learning through that avenue is ever changing, but also current and more accessible to all, different from some years ago. The point is, we should be training our students to want to learn through the discovery of technology and how things work.

This concept frightens me because of my lack of skills when it comes to coding and tinkering with technology. I like gadgets, but the idea of taking them apart is not of interest to me. Because of that lack of interest, I likely would never have done this in my classroom. This attitude, I realized after the fact, is what fears me about education and teacher’s comfort level affecting what’s being taught.

I was a teacher that was ready and willing to try new things, but this scared me! Does fear factor in to our decisions as to how and what to deliver to our students? I believe it does.

Imagine being told that you need to teach students how to create a Makey Makey. I’m sure the name alone is frightening, but the first images that you see on the tutorial are bananas hooked up to wires and a homemade-looking Nintendo controller. After having explored a little, I soon realized that it was not as frightening as I had thought, but then I wondered if teachers don’t do things sometimes because they are afraid.

makey makey banana piano

What is it that make teachers afraid? Probably the same things that make most people afraid, but on a different level. I still hear students say from time to time, “…but you’re supposed to know, you’re the teacher.” This is the product of education to this point. Teachers are all-knowing because they are the teacher. We need to shift the perception that the teacher knows to the teacher can help students figure things out.

Teachers are learners and teachers typically prepare a lesson ahead of time and then they present it to the students. Through this process, teachers become specialists of the content they are teaching. It’s frightening to think that this process should change because this is a familiar process to teachers. If teachers gave up control however, the students and the teachers could learn together. This is a scary thought because teachers typically want to know, but in the case of inquiry education, it is typical for students and the teacher to learn simultaneously.

The discomfort of changing from teacher to facilitator in the classroom is a needed direction so that students become empowered in their own learning. If we want students to be better learners that take control of their education, then we need to make the process of learning different. Let students learn by discovery and they will succeed.


4 thoughts on “Are teachers afraid to change the way they do things?

  1. Pingback: My Day of Learning – Eco Schools and Maker Spaces | 1B4E - Shivonne Lewis-Young

  2. Not only teachers, but also some students are afraid of changing and accepting new things in the classroom. For my major adult education, there might be more students are more conservative than younger students. This will create more difficulties when adult educators try to introduce more technologies into the classroom.

  3. Pingback: The Gift of Openness | Beyond the Glass

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